Northwest NEWS

August 23, 1999

Front Page

Engineers recommend sewer pipe for Kenmore

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   KENMORE--Four civil engineers with regional wastewater experience say a second Kenmore sewer pipe, not a storage tank, is needed to carry wastewater from Kenmore to the West Point Treatment Plant, via Matthews Beach.

   The Aug. 9 meeting of the Kenmore and Lake Forest Park city councils, organized by King County Councilmember Maggi Fimia, was attended by King County Council Chair Louise Miller. Fimia is fighting King County Executive Ron Sims' threat to veto the entire wastewater plan, passed by the County Council in June, if the second pipe is included, said Fimia's office.

   "The problem is, they (second-pipe opponents) don't know how much overflow is out there during storms, so how can they say how much storage will be adequate?" said Gordon Gabrielson, retired West Division Manager for Metro. "The truth is that the second pipe has been needed for 20 years. It is the most urgently needed facility in the sewage system."

   Gabrielson was in charge of organizing and overseeing the entire West Point project, and knows more about sewage issues in this area than anyone, according to County Councilmember Rob McKenna.

   "I tend to believe the engineers who are second-pipe proponents, like Mr. Gabrielson, because they have no axes to grind, as opposed to the engineers who testify for Ron Sims' position, whose jobs depend on appeasing Mr. Sims," said McKenna. "I don't have a political interest in either plan. The issue doesn't directly impact my district, but I want to support the plan that makes the most sense for the entire region.

   "It's foolish to build a 14-million gallon holding tank for $68 million as an ineffective band-aid measure until the North Treatment plant is finished in 2010, instead of using the already-existing capacity at West Point. Diverting that flow to the $600 million North Treatment Plant will immediately fill half of its capacity. West Point could handle the additional capacity of a Kenmore Parallel Interceptor pipe for at least the next 30 years.

   "Gordon Gabrielson said the holding tanks have been proven inadequate. Metro built the four million-gallon Log Boom Park Regulator in the mid-1980s, but it overflowed in the first storm after it opened."

   "The issue is using upstream storage versus downstream increased conveyance capacity," said former Norhtshore Utility Dist. general manager Ron Gehrke. "Kenmore already has the Log Boom Park storage facility, but we still get overflows of raw sewage into homes and the lake. Over the years, the district received many odor complaints due to the storage facility." As a storm subsides, the sewage is pumped from the holding tank to West Point, but then the tank has to be cleaned out, to prevent odor and corrosion problems, he said.

   Dick Warren, an engineer for the original Metro system, and prior consultant to the City of Seattle on the issue, said a second Kenmore pipe will not preclude building a third treatment plant.

   "Both are called for in the (County) Council's amended plan," said Warren. "It does not require tearing up the Burke-Gilman Trail. A Kenmore tunnel will relieve the Kenmore lake line, which is now overloaded during even moderate stormwater events. The envrionmental impacts of such a tunnel are slight and easily mitigated. Similar to the one recently completed in the city of Seattle, most of the tunnel could be in public right-of-way. No surface disturbance would be required except at the portals and few shaft locations."

   McKenna said no study has yet been done on where the outflow would be from a third treatment plant, or whether the soil between that plant and Puget Sound would even allow a tunnel.

   "Kenmore pipeline opponents doubt the ability of tunneling to West Point, but geotechnical studies have already shown it's possible," said McKenna. "Yet they've done no studies on whether an 11-mile tunnel from the North Treatment Plant site to Puget Sound will be possible. We found that soil conditions made it impossible to dig a tunnel from the Renton Treatment Plant west to Puget Sound.

   "Mr. Sims is listening to Magnolia residents who do not want anything that suggests additional expansion at West Point, even an additional pipeline. That's a short-sighted, selfish attitude. We can build the Parallel Interceptor for $118 million."

   John Hastig, Northshore Utility Dist. Engineering Manager, addressed water quality issues associated with raw sewage storage facilities and the sewage overflows from the present pipe into Lake Washington. He said the present pipe will be near the end of its design life, within the planning horizon being discussed.

   Miller discussed the County Council's majority position on the County Executive's offer of cash to Kenmore and Lake Forest Park if they go along with his plan. She said any money used from the existing capital budget must pass through the Council's normal budget process.

   "It is imperative that these flooding and back-up problems be fixed," Miller said. "The Council is willing to spend an additional $50 million the tunnel will cost over storage. That is our responsibility. But there are restrictions on our ability to use county dollars for local sewer district fixes. The Executive has never discussed these additional dollars or what they would be used for with the Council. We have not seen any proposals."

   The additional cost would actually be $40 million, due to $10 million in construction savings the Parallel Interceptor would allow during the upcoming construction of a holding tank in the University District, said McKenna.

   Fimia, former member of the Regional Water Quality Committee, shares the concern that another Kenmore holding tank will not solve any current or future problems.

   "Engineers, who know the system and the frustration of being unable to move flows out of the area during these back-to-back storms, agree that a second pipe is 10-20 years overdue," said Fimia. "Metro management was proposing to ship the overflows into the Sammamish River and Lake Washington as recently as September, 1998. Why wasn't storage proposed then as a solution? The answer is that it is not a solution.

   "Sweetening the idea of wastewater storage facilities, with promises of dollars for cities to fix all their surface water problems, is not good policy or open process. It actually puts them at greater risk. They will gain storage, still be at high risk for overflows, and may not secure additional dollars from the County Council."